Early-life socioeconomic circumstances explain health differences in old age, but not their evolution over time.

TitreEarly-life socioeconomic circumstances explain health differences in old age, but not their evolution over time.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsCheval, B, Orsholits, D, Sieber, S, Stringhini, S, Courvoisier, D, Kliegel, M, Boisgontier, MP, Cullati, S
JournalJournal of epidemiology and community health
Date Published08/2019
Mots-clésageing trajectories, early life, Health Status, healthy ageing, Socioeconomic Factors

BACKGROUND: Early-life socioeconomic circumstances (SEC) are associated with health in old age. However, epidemiological evidences on the influence of these early-life risk factors on trajectories of healthy ageing are inconsistent, preventing drawing solid conclusion about their potential influence. Here, to fill this knowledge gap, we used a statistical approach adapted to estimating change over time and an outcome-wide epidemiology approach to investigate whether early-life SEC were associated with the level of and rate of decline of physical, cognitive and emotional functioning over time.

METHODS: We used data on more than 23 000 adults in older age from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, a 12-year large-scale longitudinal study with repeated measurements of multiple health indicators of the same participants over time (2004 -2015, assessments every 2 years). Confounder-adjusted linear growth curve models were used to examine the associations of early-life SEC with the evolution of muscle strength, lung function, cognitive function, depressive symptoms and well-being over time.

RESULTS: We consistently found an association between early-life SEC and the mean levels of all health indicators at age 63.5, with a critical role played by the cultural aspect of disadvantage. These associations were only partly explained by adult-life SEC factors. By contrast, evidences supporting an association between early-life SEC and the rate of change in health indicators were weak and inconsistent.

CONCLUSIONS: Early-life SEC are associated with health in old age, but not with trajectories of healthy ageing. Conceptual models in life course research should consider the possibility of a limited influence of early-life SEC on healthy ageing trajectories.

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First publication date (online)


Alternate JournalJ Epidemiol Community Health
Citation Key / SERVAL ID9547
Peer reviewRefereed
PubMed ID30967487


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